Thursday, June 30, 2005

City of Houston population growth slowing

Census just released new estimates for 2004, with Houston numbers in this table. (AP Story) After pretty healthy gains of 18,000 in 2001 and 23,000 in 2002, we've dropped to +7,000 in 2003 and a mere +3,000 in 2004 (for a total of 2,012,626). Now, keep in mind, this is the city limits of Houston, not the metro area, which is still seeing very healthy gains.

Possible theories? Maybe tighter border controls after 9/11? I understand there is still plenty of illegal immigration going on, but it may have slowed down somewhat.

Another possibility: lower interest rates have created a lot of first-time home buyers the last few years, which probably means moving from an apartment inside the city to a starter home outside of it. We may actually have the same annual numbers of new people coming into the city, they're just being offset by those leaving for their new home. This theory seems more likely than the first.

We're middle of the pack vs. other cities in our top-10 "weight class": NY, Chicago, and Philly all lost population - and LA, Phoenix, and San Antonio are still packing them in. We're pretty comfortably entrenched at #4 - no near-term chances of moving up or down. Poor Detroit got displaced out of the top-10 by San Jose, CA - which most people don't realize is 20% larger than San Francisco. Only metro area I can think of where the suburb-city outweighs the core "big name" city.

Houston was outgained in Texas by Dallas, Ft. Worth, San Antonio, El Paso, and even little Austin (which is growing again after 3 stagnant years). Ft. Worth and San Antonio are in the top 5 nationally for numerical gains (along with Phoenix, LA, and Vegas).

The biggest losers in the top 25? Chicago, Detroit, Boston, San Francisco, Baltimore, Philly, and NYC - in that order. Like the headline says, everybody's headed south and west for sun, space, and nice new affordable homes.


At 3:33 PM, June 30, 2005, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I don't want to get to get too political, but you may also noticed that the cities that are losing are in blue state and are heavily democrat. The cities that are gaining are generally located in red states with large republican suburbs. Just a thought.

At 4:02 PM, June 30, 2005, Blogger Tory Gattis said...

Fair point. I've noticed some correlations between a growth/expansion mentality and Republicans and static environments and Democrats (similar to Europe).

I think when you're in a growing environment, you tend to prize economic freedom/minimal government because you assume your boat will be raised too (everybody will win). When you're in a relatively static/no-growth environment, you get a more "how do we slice up this limited pie?"/redistribution attitude. Since it doesn't look like the poor and middle class will be able to move up on their own through economic growth, people naturally start looking at other approaches like labor unions or government social services funded by higher taxes, generally on the better off. Both approaches are understandable given their environmental contexts.

At 5:48 PM, June 30, 2005, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Crazy talk re: the first comment. Georgia has been a democrat state up until very recently, and there's that city called Atlanta that grew explosively during that time. Arizona's governor is a Democrat (Phoenix, anyone?). Texas was a democratic state at the governor-level until Dubya, and generally a blue state until Reagan (Houston, Dallas, San Antonio...). And California is looking at something like a doubling in population in the next couple of decades... definitely a blue state.


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